As a school counselor, you often see students struggling with self-confidence despite being more than capable. However, with some great confidence-building activities for kids, you can help them believe in themselves. This post will cover 12 ideas you can use in individual and group counseling to help students accept and love themselves. Plus, many can be used in the classroom too!
Role Playing New Situations
Students with lower self-esteem often think negatively about new situations. They worry they won't know how to do something, that things will go wrong, or that they'll be embarrassed. To help them see the event in a different light have students role-play! First brainstorm with students all the things that could happen. You can then take turns role playing how to handle each outcome. This will help feel confident that they can handle whatever happens.
Students with low confidence can often ignore their successes or attribute them to something outside themselves. Instead, they need to acknowledge these and take some ownership of their positive outcomes. This is a great thing to record over time in counseling. You could have a check-in where students tell their win for the week. Teachers could also make a habit of recognizing successes.
Pass along the simple success chain activity teachers can do all year long.
Take on Responsibilities
Nothing builds confidence like feeling proud and helpful to others. Have the students brainstorm ways they are responsible or could be responsible. Can they help take care of their pets at home? Maybe they can be responsible for their materials? Can they ask their teacher for a new class job?
If you want to explore the topic of responsibilities with students, check out this lesson here or this post on responsibility activities for elementary students.
15 minute mini lessons and activities exploring how students can be responsible.
Visualize a Positive Outcome
A student who assumes they aren't capable doesn't take the time to think about positive outcomes. Tell them to close their eyes and visualize a positive outcome to a situation they have in mind. Prompt them to create a little movie in their head that they can replay. You can then take that positive outcome they envisioned and help them work backward to make it happen. What would have to happen for this to be true?
Power Word Collage
Around the new year, you often see posts about picking your word for the year. I'm usually not into activities like this, but I have found this one to be mighty.
In my first year as a school psych, my principal told us that her word was balance. Balance for herself, for all of us, and our families. I took that to heart as a newbie trying to figure out how to do my job and keep my confidence up. So I wrote balance on a post-it and stuck in on my desk. Some days, it helped me head home from work when I needed to, get the extra sleep, ask questions, and own my self-care.
Have students choose a word that represents how they want to feel or act. Maybe it's confident; perhaps it's powerful. Then have them find pictures that represent that word. This is a great motivational tool to revisit when students struggle with self-esteem.
I've mentioned negative thinking a couple of times already. Often changing someone's negative self-talk goes hand in hand with building their confidence. In sessions, teach students to spot negative thinking, challenge it, and change it.
Read more below for ideas to help students change negative thinking.
Understanding and Building Self Esteem
To be honest, targeting self-esteem with affirmations and positivity wastes time. So instead, I want to share this one-sentence summary of how self-esteem works. I think it will shift how you approach it.
"Students base their self-esteem on their perception of competence in an area they value."
Students base how they feel about themselves on if they see themselves as capable with something that means something to them.
So if a student feels like they are terrible at math but don't care, that won't impact their self-esteem significantly. But, on the other hand, if they care about their athletic skills, they will feel bad if they don't think they are up to snuff.
Notice I'm also talking about their perception. They could be a fantastic athlete. But if they perceive that differently, that will affect their self-esteem too.
In counseling, help students explore their self-esteem with activities like this one.
Where Oliver Fits + Activity
Part of feeling confident is accepting who you are. Grab the book "Where Oliver Fits" and this printable activity for a quick whole-group lesson on accepting others and accepting yourself. Oliver is a puzzle piece trying to find out where he fits in, and it is more difficult than he thought it would be.
Add this quick bulletin board or door display to help carry over the lessons.
Dear Me Letters
One confidence-building activity that is especially meaningful and impactful for students is writing a "Dear Me" letter. This activity encourages students to think of a goal they want to work on, then write a letter to themselves as if they are giving their future self advice and motivation. The letters should be focused on the goal they set and provide encouragement.
Activity - I Am
This is a simple and feel-good activity for talking about who you are. All you need is a sheet of paper!
First, draw a small circle at the center of the paper that says I am and their name. Next, draw a larger circle around this one and have them consider the roles they feel are an essential part of them (e.g., son/daughter, brother/sister, student, friend, musician, artist, etc.). They should fill those roles in this circle. Next, draw another circle around this one. This time, students write down positive traits they feel describe them.
As a group, students can share their I Am papers. You could also have group members add positive traits they see in the student to the outside of the all the circles. This activity helps students think about their identity and build a positive image of themselves.
Activity - Ways to Grow
One of the ways to build confidence and self-acceptance is to help students consider attainable goals that are important to them. Try out this simple lesson where students explore their strengths and look for growth opportunities.
Start Building Student Confidence
These confidence-building activities for kids are an excellent way to help students build self-esteem and confidence. By teaching them how to recognize their strengths, identify areas of growth, challenge negative thinking, and accept themselves as they are, you can make a real difference in the lives of your students. Ultimately, when children feel empowered with confidence in who they are, true success begins!
Where Oliver Fits Activities
Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson is a great way to talk about accepting others, how exclusion makes people feel, and practicing accepting yourself for who you are. This is include read aloud questions, students activities, and display.
Self Esteem Activities
These counseling activities focus on students understanding what effects their self-esteem, determining what areas they do and do not feel competent in, planning to improve valued skills, and recognizing supports.